Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The World is Flat: A comment

Krydz Ikwuemesi, Beyond Maps, pen and ink

In April 2008, Johanne Løgstrup, a Danish curator and artist, invited a number of Danish and international artists to comment on and elaborate the possibilities inherent in geographical maps as media. The project and artists seek to use the map as metaphor for addressing geo-political issues from diverse but complementary standpoints. The Participating artists include Anonymous (Romania), Heman Chong (SG), Shahram Entekhabi (Iran), Kristofer Hultenberg (SE/Denmark), Lasse Lau (Denmark), Lize Mogel (USA), Ursula Nistrup (Denmark), Dan Rees (UK) and Jee Young Sim (Korea/USA). The exhibition was opened at Overgaden, Institute for Contemporary Art, Denmark and will travel to other venues later, including Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos. I was also invited as the Nigerian/African participant.

The opening of the exhibition on the 26th of April was well attended, as it coincided with several other events at Overgaden. It has also been well received by the exhibition-going public in Copenhagen. According to a statement issued by Overgaden, “The artists have used the conventional measures and folding functions of the map as a general template for the artworks. In completely different and very playful and experimental ways they have made maps of places – some of them fictitious, some of them real. The maps vary from Heman Chong’s private landscape of knowledge shown by his personal list of literature to Lize Mogel’s map which has zoomed in on the centre of The UN’s logotype, the North Pole, to take a look at the political conflicts that have lately arisen in this area. Dan Rees contributes a map where snails have drawn … routes across a world map with almost invisible silvery trails and C. Krydz Ikwuemesi’s map is animated with features that contrast the right angles and concise metrical elements that usually characterize maps… The World is Flat gives new perceptions of the networks, associations and representations of places, people and power.”

As an African, the map is for me a sad reminder of the balkanization of Africa by European imperialists on arbitrary, if absurd, geopolitical assumptions and for their own economic interests. Today, Africa is a collage of nation states burdened with national and international conflicts which are largely due to the legacy of colonization. As cartography can also be metaphorically characterized, Africa remains mapped out of the mainstream in the exfoliating politics of globalization with its contradictions and paradoxes.

My work seemed to differ thematically in its relation to the other works exhibited. Not because it was the only one from Africa, but because it tried to subvert the theme of the exhibition in its title Beyond Maps. The work takes a negative look at maps as an instrument and basis of the colonial project in Africa. It also explores the possible metaphoric significations of the map by interrogating the ahistoric mapping of Africa when the continent was shared at the Berlin conference like a breakfast sausage among European colonizers. It alludes to this moment in history and its unending political aftermaths through the dominating outlines of the European faces that dominate the organic landscape embodied in the work, thus inscribing mapping as a means to determining self and other, a tool for the “assertion of authority” and for “confirmation of acts of violence.”

At Overgaden the works were laid side by side, flat on a specially designed high, round table, which allows the viewer to get close to the maps and have a close encounter with the works. The display, though, reflects the usual way of viewing the map, also subverts the conventionality of art display on wall and other traditional surfaces and angles.

I am grateful to CCA, Lagos and the curator of the exhibition, Johanne Løgstrup, for facilitating my participation in the exhibition. Although there was no forum for in-depth and meaningful interaction and exchange between the participating artists in Copenhagen, the experience in working with map and seeing the works of other participants have provoked new thoughts and ideas in my mind, the kind that may influence some of my paintings in the near future.

C. Krydz Ikwuemesi

Visiting Associate Professor,
National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka

A reply by curator Johanne Loegstrup.
Dear Krydz

Thank you for your documentation. I thinks it is really great that you have done such. I just have a short comment. You write: 'Although there was no forum for in-depth and meaningful interaction and exchange between the participating artists in Copenhagen '. I don't thing you are right. Sunday, after the opening I had facilitated a roundtable discussion for the artists and the public. Unfortunately few of the artists turned up and some really late (including you). But the people being there all have a hugh interest in the field. So I don't think there wasn't created a forum for exchange and in-depth discussions.

Very best, Johanne

Friday, 13 June 2008

INVITATION: A Roundtable on 2008 Dak'Art

A Roundtable on 2008 Dak'Art
The International Association of Art Critics (AICA Nigeria)
In collaboration with Goethe-Institut Lagos
Cordially invites you as a Discussant to
"Review of the Dak’art 2008"
A Round Table
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Time: 4:00pm
Goethe-Institut Lagos, 10 Ozumba Mbadiwe Avenue, Victoria Island
Phones: 461 3416, 774 6888; 08023312410
"Review of the Dak’Art 2008"
What are the current tendencies of the art scene in Africa - and especially West Africa? To what extent is the Nigerian art scene up to par with the international discourse? At the 8th Dak’Art Biennale, which took place in Senegal from May 9 to June 9, the New-York-based artist Osaretin Ighile was the only Nigerian in the ‘Main’-exhibition. The National Gallery of Art (NGA), Abuja, however, mounted an ‘Off’-exhibition of 15 Nigerian artists in Dakar during this important African contemporary art biennale. To what extent did the exhibition project NGA’s bid to host the First African Regional Summit and Exhibition in Visual Arts (ARESUVA) in September 2008? These are some of the questions that will be discussed by prominent representatives of the Nigerian cultural scene who visited the Biennale. The round table will cast a light on the concepts, the artists and the works at the Dak’Art Biennale.
Discussants: Akin Onipede of CCAF Nigeria, Bisi Silva of CCA,Lagos, Chuka Nnabuife of SNA, Okechukwu Uwazuoke of AWON, Dr, Kweku Tandoh of NGA Abuja, Moses Ohiomokhare of Quintessence representing Gallery Owners’ Association.
Moderator: Ademola Azeez of AICA.
Please attend punctually.

Artspeakafrica is website of the month

The leading online south african magazine Artthrob has chosen artspeakafrica as site of the month in conjunction with that of my colleague and compatriot Slyvester Ogbechie's content rich blog aachronym. Nice to get some positive feedback from someone you don't know so you can't be accused of offering a 'facilitation' fee or pr fee or whatever term they currently use for inducement in dear lagos even though I am a big fan of Artthrob.

Reviewer Chad Rossouw has rightly pointed out the lack of information available about contemporary visual art practice on the continent. In years past artists could explain their complacency away by citing lack of funding, sponsorship and all other manner of excuses. But today those options have been closed to them. With free online spaces available, it only goes to show the unwillingness of artists, writers, curators and all other art professionals on the continent to make a more concerted effort toward providing visibility for contemporary visual art practice in Africa. The effects of an acute lack of physical infrastructure could have been diminished by experimental with different online possibilities for the presentation and the debate of art practice on the continent. But Alas nothing. And i have yet to see a community more technophobe than the nigerian art one. In spite of prodding and cajoling, a country with one of the largest population of visual artists on the continent consistently refuses to join the online community. Recently the DG of the National Gallery of Art even offered to 1000 artists a free online presence. I was informed that of last month there had been only 3 takes. Na wa for my peeeple, dem never understand say level don change o! as we say here.

The text below is culled from from (hope you don't mind Sue)

Speaking on Contemporary African Art: Two Art Blogs
by Chad Rossouw

Trying to find engaging up-to-date text about contemporary art in Africa has always been a challenge on the internet. There are general sites such as, which is useful for news and some critical content and it also has a great links section. But one still feels the need for more specific critical content. Even a large organisation, with a specific theme, like has an un-navigable site, with few images and little content. As far as I can tell, there is nothing like ArtThrob in any other African Country. African art blogs, which would fill up the gaps, are a rarer bird still.

Nevertheless, I have come across two blogs, by well-known art professionals Bisi Silva and S. Okwunodu Ogbechie, which provide some interesting content.

Silva is an independent curator, based in Nigeria. She travels extensively across the continent and world and her blog,, reflects this. It is a little too infrequently updated to be comprehensive, but it is still a useful resource and has been online for close on two years. Her posts often give details about exhibitions and events, such as auctions in Lagos, but also move to reviews of larger events across the continent, such as Cape '07, and Dak'Art. I find her posts always personal, friendly and upbeat, but no less incisive for it.

Ogbechie is an art historian based in the USA. His areas of specialisation, however, are Nollywood and contemporary African art. His blog is slightly more academic in content, and often more about film, but well worth trawling through. Interesting opinions, links and criticism make regular appearances, especially on the topic of global African culture, equality and representation.

Curiously, both blogs have an almost identical design, which, though not visually exciting, is clean and legible. They also both have RSS feeds, so although neither change daily, you can keep an eye on new content as it arrives.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

La Vie difficile d'un artiste lauréat du prix Djamilatou

j'ai perdu le souvenir de la 8é biennale de Dakar pour me confronter au quotidien difficile de l'artiste lauréat du prix Djamilatou ;qu'est-ce que je veux dire ? Je veux simplement dire que si les institutions qui donnent les prix misérables aux artistes méritants de la biennale tueront l'une des motivations de certains artistes et réduiront la qualité des prochaines biennales.

Le prix djamilatou qu'on m'a donné est un chèque sans argent je suis revenu chez moi avec les dettes de la fabriction des châssis,les toiles, la peinture et le prix des caisses d'envoi. J'ai fais des voyages d'échanche en Europe depuis que j'ai comencé mon art il y a 25ans. A 52 ans ,me donner un chéque et me dire que c'est honnorifique,c'est se moquer de la biennale de Dakar,et des artistes africains.Autant ne pas donner de prix du tout si la biennale n'a pas de moyens financier.Un prix c'est un prix,pas une bourse d'échange.

Sokey Edorh is a visual artist based in Lome.

Friday, 6 June 2008

More African foundations, countries and businesses need to support the Biennale.

I think it is a great opportunity to have a Biennale in Africa that represents African contemporary art. But it will be more interesting when African foundations and countries and businesses support the Biennale. Most of the visitors are from Europe and other continents, but few Africans. It is a very good opportunity to show our work, to have projects that travel and to carry out projects outside of the continent. But I think it will also be important to have exchange projects in Africa, otherwise most of the artistic production will go out of the continent.

Ibrahima Niang, 21eme Siecle

There were lots of problem during the biennale. The biennale is not independent; it depends of the Senegalese ministry of culture and they don't understand what is a Biennale.The administration is very slow. Mr.Wade is not really the one who decides, he can't ask for funding without the culture minister. That's why it takes a long time to find money and announce that the Biennale will take place. Artists don’t have time to prepare it very well because they get the information four months before. The official show was not better than last year, I think it has to be better ever year. There were a lot of problems to meet people who had an interest in the artists’ work.

I think the OFF also was not very good, although there were some good exhibitions. I think they have to select the better applications from the OFF to present in the Official Guide. Then people can be sure to find good things. There are more than one hundred exhibitions in Dakar, it is too much, you can't see all and you don't know which one to see. I think Dak'art is very young, we have to do our best to make it greater.

Ibrahima Niang is a visual artist living in Dakar.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Dak'Art treatment of artists and artwork is using up all its reserve of goodwill.

Gabriel Pacheco, Silence#3

When invited to contribute to this blog I considered writing about the successful curatorial structure of the 2006 Dak’art Biennale in comparison with the absence of such a vision this May 2008. However, in reading several of the wonderful contributions on the subject (put forth in the last few days) I have decided to use this space for a different sort of critique of the Dak’art Biennale: the treatment of the artists and the artwork.

One of the most upsetting events of 2008 was the inability of the Biennale to include the incredible work of Nandipha Mntambo. Through gross error and negligence on the part of the Biennale, her work did not arrive in time to be installed for the opening. A similar situation arose for the American artist Gabriel Pacheco whose work was also absent – only given a week’s notice to ship the work it did not, in the end, arrive on time for the opening.

Though the Biennale does fund the artist’s travel to the exhibition, the last minute notice of travel time and day has become a running joke. Given only a few hours to meet a scheduled flight, artists are often unable to attend. Nigerian artist Nnenna Okore was provided with less than 24 hours notice of her travel in 2006; she has young children and teaches at an American art school. Was she to abandon her classes and leave her children unattended? If given just a few days more these issues might have been sorted out so that she could have participated – instead El Anatsui, Amarachi Okafor, Bisi and I installed her work in her absence. Adding insult to injury, she has been trying to get the work back from the Biennale for the last two years and has finally given up.I understand these things are complicated and that funding issues are difficult for a multitude of reasons. However, what the 2008 biennale lacked in financial backing and curatorial vision could have been somewhat salvaged through proper treatment of the artists involved.

It is because of the artists this important event exists and without them it will fail. Here is hoping for 2010!

Lisa Binder is a curator at the Museum for African Art in New York.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Dak’art et Nous…

Nous qui aimons Dak’art au point de l’exposer au discrédit par notre Supra présence, comment allons-nous vaincre Narcisse et laisser Alice émerger enfin ?

Nous qui travaillons au noir dans la critique pour que Dak’art ne soit que l’ombre d’elle-même d’une édition à l’autre, même quand elle brave vents et marées pour nous offrir un cadre digne avec un contenu fort ; qui sommes-nous ?

Nous qui crions innovation à tue-tête à l’endroit d’une manifestation qui certes a fini de faire ses preuves ; sommes-nous seulement prêts à laisser Dak’art nous imprimer son rythme et sa vision de l’innovation ?

Nous qui aurions aimé avoir des textes plus riches sur les artistes et leurs travaux dans le catalogue de Dak’art 2008, qui nous dira pourquoi tel n’a pas été le cas?

Nous qui souffrons du fait qu’à chaque édition de Dak’art il y ait des travaux d’artistes qui n’arrivent jamais à temps, quel peut être notre apport pour que ça change?

"The Night of Altina" solo exhibition April 2008 by Guy Wouete at Doual'art in Cameroon.

Nous qui croyons que Dak’art 2008 aura tout été sauf un échec, sur quoi se fonde notre optimisme pour la réussite de l’édition 2010 ? Es-ce sur le travail acharné d’un groupe de personnes qui depuis quelques années maintenant n’a cessé de nous redonner de l’espoir même lorsque nous pensions que tout était perdu ? Es-ce sur la force des propositions artistiques fait par des créateurs qui au quotidien explorent la réalité et l’histoire d’un continent pluriel dans un monde traumatisé et hanté par les démons de l’argent et du pouvoir ? Es-ce sur une volonté politique formulé par un gouvernement et des partenaires privés locaux et internationaux ?

Nous, encore Nous et toujours Nous.

Guy Wouete is a visual artist based in Douala.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Other reviews of Dak'Art 08

Though the Dakar Biennale has been going on for 16 years it still receives little coverage in the international art magazines or newspapers, so it is good to see this review in Universes-in-Universe an online publication focusing on contemporary art outside of the West.

In Forget Venice!State Art or Privatization? Scouting Out the 8th Dakar Biennial, Sabine Vogel gives a general overview and review of activities at this year's edition of Dak'Art. Read her article here.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

An Artist's Frustation with Dak'Art

Dak’art is an event that many people look forward to experiencing. This exhibition presents an opportunity for African artists in various locations to show their work to an audience that is primarily interested in contemporary art practice and output. Senegal becomes the meeting place where both local and international curators, critics, writers, collectors and artists interact.

This year’s version of this exhibition did not have a curator and presented fewer artists' work as part of the main exhibition. Dakar was a frustration and disappointment for me. Despite the fact that my work did not arrive on time to be displayed, I felt that the organisation and general communication within the organisational structure was lacking. The exhibition and the events around it had the potential to be really great so it was sad to not get the opportunity to experience it all. Despite all its problems, this event provides a space for interaction and exchange between various players in the art field. The city is beautiful and rich with history, engaging with people from Dakar as well as other artists and critics was the highlight of my trip.

Nandipha Mntambo is a visual artist based in Cape Town.

Nandipha Mntambo, The Silent Embrace digital prints on cotton
rag paper (photo Tony Meintjes)